Imperial Valley College Journalism

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Mariachi Mixteco: A Different Kind of After-School Program


EL CENTRO, Calif. – Wherever they go, they are well-known. Whenever they compete, they come out on top. They are the Imperial Valley’s Mariachi Mixteco, a youth music group whose popularity is only matched by their talent, unity and respect for the traditional Mexican art of mariachi.

Mariachi Mixteco in performance.  Click the audio player below to listen to the band's live performance of 'Acaba de Una Vez.'

Mariachi Mixteco in performance. Click the audio link to the right to listen to the band's live rendition of 'Acaba de Una Vez.'

Acaba-de-una-vez.mp3

When anyone mentions mariachi in the Imperial Valley, Mixteco always comes up. They are one of the premiere groups, not just in Southern California, but nationally. They have come out on top in Tucson, San Diego and the birthplace of mariachi—Guadalajara, Mexico. They have become so popular that they open for several of the world’s best groups—Mariachi Camperos, Sol de Mexico and, considered by many to be the best of the best, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan.

Not bad for an after-school program. With all their merits, bragging rights and popularity, you’d think Mixteco would be a professional group. Mixteco is only a youth amateur group that

Isaiah Rodriguez, is mastering the mariachi violin—one of the most difficult instruments in the craft-- at the age of eight.  He is expected to join Mariachi Mixteco in a few years. See the full slideshow below.

Isaiah Rodriguez, is mastering the mariachi violin—one of the most difficult instruments in the craft-- at the age of eight. He is expected to join Mariachi Mixteco in a few years. See the full slideshow below.

operates as an after-school program, according to Maggie Rodriguez, event coordinator for Mixteco. “If they don’t have good grades, then they are not going to end up getting permission [to tour] and they can’t perform in the Mixteco group.”

The roots of Mixteco go back to 1998, when two female mariachis got together and started to play. One of them was from Calexico, the other from El Centro, and they recruited four more and began to play at “Our Lady of Guadalupe Church” in Calexico. From there the group expanded to fill up the needed instrumentation. They now operate with four violins, two trumpets, one guitarron, two guitars and one vihuela, which is considered to be a standard and traditional ensemble.

Though Rodriguez wants the Mixteco to be solely a

Genaro Rasco, 22, is one of the newer—yet, older—members of Mixteco. He comes from a heavy metal background, but has embraced mariachi, which he says has made him a better musician. See the full slideshow below.

Genaro Rasco, 22, is one of the newer—yet, older—members of Mixteco. He comes from a heavy metal background, but has embraced mariachi, which he says has made him a better musician. See the full slideshow below.

youth group, they do have members who are above the youth category. Members like Genaro Rascon, who is now 22 and plays the trumpet. He comes from a heavy metal background but embraces mariachi for all it’s worth. “I saw Mixteco playing one time and I was just blown away,” said Rascon who has been with Mixteco since June 2008.

Another unlikely member is Jaquelyn Garcia, 19, who joined the group at the urging of her grandmother. Garcia knows what she wants to do in life, which is to finish college and become a librarian.

One of the more experienced members of Mixteco is also on his way out of being considered youth. Ulysses Rodriguez, 19, Maggie Rodriguez’s son, was attracted to Mixteco in 2002, when his older brother Marcos started to play. At first Ulysses started off playing the bass drum for the Imperial High School Band, and found picking up a mariachi instrument difficult at first. He now plays the guitar, guitarron, vihuela and is learning how to play the harp. (Story continues below slideshow.)

Ulysses Rodriguez, 19, is one of the more experienced members of Mixteco.  He plays guitar, guitarron, vihuela and the harp.

Ulysses Rodriguez, 19, is one of the more experienced members of Mixteco. He plays guitar, guitarron, vihuela and the harp.

Mixteco has come a long way from its roots as a church mariachi and has expanded into teaching. Mixteco holds classes now for anyone wanting to learn how to play mariachi. Rodriguez says that anyone of any age and any musical level can visit the Elk’s Lodge in El Centro and sign up. A $10 dollar per-class fee, is used to pay the maestros (teachers) and other costs.

There is no age requirement for Mixteco. Isaiah Rodriguez, is only eight years old and is well on his way to joining the Mixteco group, when he comes of age. He is also picking up one of the hardest mariachi instruments to play—the violin.

Jaquelyn Garcia, 18, joined Mariachi Mixteco at the urging of her grandmother.  Garcia is a dedicated fan of heavy metal rock music and has plans to graduate from college with a degree in library sciences. See the full slideshow below.

Jaquelyn Garcia, 18, is a dedicated fan of heavy metal and wants to be a librarian. Click the audio link player below to hear her story.

One of the many perks that come with being in one of the best mariachi groups around is the traveling.

“The traveling, that’s also really great. Like I would’ve never gone to Guadalajara without the mariachi, or to Tucson either, and that’s not even that far but the mariachi made it possible,” said vihuela player, Garcia.

Mixteco currently has a big truck that carries a lot of the equipment, and up to six students, and parents will often travel with the group as chaperones.

Mixteco-Students-Speak-Out.mp3

Of course talent does go along way, too.

So what does it take to be a Mixteco? According to coordinator Rodriguez, it’s mostly a mix of passion, heart and motivation. The Mixteco group members are taught responsibility, along with stage presence and passion for the art. They are required to keep their grades up, keep themselves healthy and well-groomed.

6 Replies

  1. MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ Jan 1st 2010

    THANK YOU JORGE VILLALOBOS FOR YOUR WORK ON MARIACHI MIXTECO, AND FOR THE TIME YOU SPENT ON THIS PROJECT AND FOR ALL THE PROMPTS YOU GIVE US.FEEL FREE TO COME BACK AND VISIT OR GRAB AN INSTRUMENT AND FINE TUNE YOUR VOICE AND JOIN US.
    SINCERLY MAGGIE AND TONY RODRIGUEZ AND MARIACHI MIXTECO FAMILY FROM THE IMPERIAL VALLEY

  2. Román Feb 16th 2010

    I’m actually one of the original members of Mariachi Mixteco and though I’m happy to see that it’s progressed so well (and is still in existance) I’m pretty sure the information about the history and founding of the mariachi is very inaccurate.

  3. Hi Roman…

    What is inaccurate about the information in the story?

    Gina Germani

  4. Genaro Rascon Jr. Apr 20th 2010

    Ha! I never saw this before! Thanks to Jorge for a good job on the project. Makes us sound world class haha. Btw, the song at the top of the page is called “Amarga Navidad”. It’s by Jose Alfredo Jimenez and it’s being sung by Maritza Ruiz, 15, of Brawley.

  5. chantal Jun 2nd 2010

    jaja! i never saw this before either! it’s nice though good… GOOD JOB!?

  6. Haha yup they really do ask for mariachi loco a lot, ad yes haha you guys always seem to be having a good time.. Ayy jackie


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